Sunday, July 10, 2011

Composition: What is it?

I should say, what is composition to me?  In photography the three most important things for a good image are light, location and subject.  Does equipment matter?  Yes, to some degree.  Does post processing with something like Adobe Lightroom matter?  Again, yes, however software cannot fix a bad photo.  So what is it about photography that separates the "pros" from the "amateurs"?  Today, almost anyone with a point and shoot can take a good or even great photo.

The answer is composition.  This is an area that I have struggled with in photography and something that I have been working hard to improve on.  It is what distinguishes a typical tourist snapshot from a great photograph.

In this example from my recent trip to St. Thomas, USVI, I happened upon some very interesting rocks at a beach.  Well I know that my equipment is up to the task, my Nikon D700, my Nikon 24-70 lens and my Singh-Ray LB color combo polarizer.  I set up my shot, check the light, frame it, focus and I have a photo of some rocks, cool looking volcanic rocks at that.

Volcanic rocks

Ok, the light looks good, nice water in the background . . . ok I am done.  A nice tourist snapshot for the album.  Really?  Is that what I am trying to get out of photography?  In the past I would have been happy. In this case I kept looking.  There was some reason why I stopped to look at these rocks.

In composing a photograph, a photographer needs to ask themselves "what do I see and why do I want to photograph it"?  In this case there was something about these rocks that attracted me, the color, the shape . . .

The Praying Hands
As I looked around, I happened to notice some shapes, fingers, hands. Tightening the frame, focusing on a new subject, simplifying the subject and recomposing I captured one of my favorite shots from my trip.  I call this "The Praying Hands".  It is available on my website for sale at Brian Shannon Photography

I need to take more time to see what is around me and use my camera to capture it.  Composition to me is simply, taking a picture of what captures my interest.  This is often easier said than done but I am working on it.  If this topic is of interest to you, here are some books that have helped me with composition:

The Tao of Photography

Contemporary Landscape Photography: Professional Techniques for Capturing Spectacular Settings

Thanks for reading and until next time, keep shooting

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